LOYALTY AND EMOTION
Loyalty. This is a small word that carries a huge punch. Yet, we have mishandled it so much on a daily basis, we have practically turned it into a cliché. There are countless definitions of the word “loyalty”, and if you take it a step further and Google the word, it returns 115 million results in less than ½ a second. So, instead of defining loyalty and becoming the “plus one” to 115 million hits, I would rather focus on the one fact that most of us fail to realize – loyalty is directly related to emotions. Loyalty and emotions are roommates. When you see one, you see the other. When they take a stroll, they walk hand-in-hand. They are best friends, soulmates, and inseparable.
Let’s take a more personal approach to understanding loyalty. Think about the people in your life who you are loyal to. Perhaps your list included some of the following: family, friends, mentors, coaches, accountability partner, etc. Why? Because somewhere along your life journey, you have developed an emotional bond with these people. They may not always say things you like to hear. They may not always do things that you like. But because of that emotional bond, you remain loyal to them. The same applies to your residents, family members, and employees. To earn their loyalty, you must build that emotional bond. That can only be accomplished by continuously creating positive emotional experiences.
Perhaps you are reading this article and thinking to yourself, “Hey, we conduct annual satisfaction surveys, and we have a good pulse on our situation.” I applaud you for conducting the annual satisfaction surveys. As a matter of fact, whether you conduct them in house or outsource to a third party, the majority of the industry has implemented an annual Satisfaction Program. The bigger questions is this: What are you doing with the results? Do you have an action plan in place to address some of the issues? Are your residents, family members, and employees aware of this action plan? Are they able to see changes based on their feedback? Is there a “tool” in place in which they can provide feedback throughout the year as opposed to just the one time annual survey? These are tough questions to ask about your organization, but if you really care about loyalty, you will ask them.
If you want a true measure of your loyalty, take a look at the results of your last annual satisfaction survey. Most questions are answered with the following scale:
Very Satisfied – Satisfied – Neutral – Not Satisfied – Very Dissatisfied
Most of us have the perception that loyalty is measured by those who respond with “Satisfied” or “Very Satisfied.” However, you could not be more wrong. Numerous studies have been conducted and it has been proven that loyalty is directly correlated to the respondents who answer in the “Very Satisfied” category. Can you take a guess on the percentage of respondents who are Very Satisfied? If you guessed around 10%, then you are spot on. You also should be very concerned.
OCCUPANCY AND LOYALTY
Loyalty is one of the largest factors that affects your bottom line. I think it should be a line item on the Balance Sheet. But here is the problem we face in this industry. Let’s first address occupancy. We have accepted the fact that that 95% occupancy is ok. I am not saying it’s a bad thing. All I am saying is that if you are not consistently operating at 100%, there is no room for celebration. Don’t think I am ruthless and do not understand. I get it. Our occupancy is affected by a number of contributing factors including higher acuity needs and even death – two things that are out of our control. So, the solution is focusing on the things that are within our control.
Now, before we discuss how we can achieve higher occupancy by creating more loyal residents and family members, let’s first discuss the other loyalty factor that drives profits to the bottom line – employees. I have seen so many companies get so focused on sales and marketing that they forget to invest in their most important asset – their employees. Do you know that on average, it takes 2-3 times a person’s salary to replace them? Here is another fact that should not be a shocker. Most employees do not leave an organization because of compensation. In other words, they are not leaving because they are going to get paid a higher salary with their new company. Most employees leave because they feel under-valued and under-appreciated. Shame on us. How hard is it to give someone a pat on the back and tell them they are doing a good job and you appreciate them? How difficult is it to allow your entire team to weigh in on decisions that involve the entire organization? When did we stop caring about our employees? When did we give up on employee loyalty and start treating them as if they are expendable?
HOPE AND ACTION
Maybe you believe you cannot control whether your residents, family members, and employees are loyal. If so, then you have already thrown in the towel. You have already given into mediocrity. You have let yourself and employees off the hook, and have settled for the “acceptable” loss. But for those of you who still believe that loyalty can exist throughout the ranks, there is hope. You show me a leader with hope, and I will show you an organization that will rise to new levels of success. However, hope in itself will not achieve these results. But when you combine hope with action, you create a formula for success.
So, let’s now talk about the things we can control. You can control the loyalty of your residents and family members. You can create an environment of engaged employees. You just needs the tools in place to help you identify what makes a very satisfied resident, family member, and employee. An annual satisfaction program is a start, but that is all it is – a start.
PUTTING IT ALL IN PERSPECTIVE
Let’s put this in perspective. Let’s say you are in a serious relationship or even married. However, you have one rule in the relationship. Once, and only once a year you get to come to your partner and tell them how you feel. Crazy right? Seriously, who would ever enter (or stay in) a relationship like that? No one in their right mind. Then why do we take the same approach with our residents and employees?
I can hear the mental argument in your mind. “Sure, we only conduct a formal satisfaction survey program once a year, but our residents, family members, and employees know we have an open door policy.” I know you believe this because I have literally seen it advertised on your websites. But seriously, how many of you actually believe that a resident is going to approach you anytime they have feedback? When will the family members get tired of repeating themselves without seeing any changes? What is the percentage of employees that truly come into work every day that do not feel for a second that they cannot be replaced? Not only do they not vocalize it, but it is just a matter of time before you lose them – employees and residents. Very satisfied/loyal residents and employees will stick with you through thick and thin. But for some of you, that equates to only 10%.
THE GOOD NEWS
So, are you ready for the good news? For those of you who stuck with me so far, you are going to love this. There is a way to drive higher loyalty throughout your organization. You just need the right tools in place. And guess what, the right tool is so cost-effective, it will work even with the tightest of budgets. Allow me to explain the tool. You need a program in place that allows for residents, family members, and employees to provide you with feedback 24 hours a day, 7 days a weeks, and 365 days of the year. The tool is called the Digital Comment Card. Not only does it allow for continuous feedback, but once the feedback is submitted, you will receive an email in real time allowing you to be proactive vs. reactive. The respondent has the option of remaining anonymous or providing contact information requesting follow up on the feedback. Imagine how much easier it will be to manage the challenges you face. Instead of having to deal with them all at once, now you can work through them as they come in. Now, also imagine how your residents, family members and employees will feel when they realize they do have a voice. How they feel is that emotion that is connected to loyalty.